Chez Gérard gearing up for expansion?


Paramount, owner of the Chez Gérard, Livebait, Cafe Fish and Bertorelli restaurant chains, today hinted it could be on the verge of a major expansion programme as it reported half-year figures showing the business has finally been turned around.

Paramount bought the business, which at the time was struggling, in April last year.

Today it revealed figures for the 26 weeks to 28 December showing it had turned a pre-tax profit of £400,000 at the same point last year into £1.3m this year.

Taking out one-off items, most notably the £100,000 profit from the sale of five restaurants in Manchester, Oxford and London, pre-tax profit came in at £900,000.Turnover for the six months was £16m, against £17.4m last time round.

Like-for-like sales were up by 1.4%, compared with a decline the year before. The group had a particularly good Christmas, reporting 5.7% like-for-like growth.Paramount had also seen a 7% increase in average sales per restaurant on the sites it had retained.

Chief executive Nick Basing said Paramount’s turnaround programme for the business was now nearing completion.’We will commence the next phase in the company’s development and look to develop the potential of our restaurant brands’, he added.

A key part of this was the appointment of Phil Wickens as chief operating officer, he said.Wickens, former managing director of the Zizzi chain at Ask Central, was the man responsible for expanding that chain nationwide, raising the prospect that he may have brought into Paramount to do something similar.

‘His extensive operational experience in the restaurant industry will be a significant asset to our group’, said Basing.Paramount’s 21 restaurants have seen significant refurbishments over the past six months.

The Cafe Bar at Bishopsgate, London, has been overhauled, and a private dining room added to the Dover Street outlet.The Livebait in St Paul’s is being converted to a Chez Gérard and there are plans to refurbish the Chez Gérard at Opera Terrace.

Bertorelli’s in Covent Garden was relaunched last month after an extensive overhaul and other refurbishments were planned, said Basing.The menus in all four of its brands have been reworked and there has been increased emphasis on staff training, with managers also offered performance bonuses.

Since the end of the half-year period, like-for-like sales had continued to improve, rising by 2.8% in the first three months of 2004, said Basing.

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